Conway Regional Medical Center staff hosted an active shooter training Saturday, giving several law enforcement agencies and other first responders in the area the opportunity to collectively train and prepare themselves should we be faced locally with an active shooter situation.
Several agencies including the Conway Police Department, Faulkner County Sheriff's Office, Conway and Greenbrier fire departments, Metropolitan Emergency Medical Services (MEMS), Air Evacuation Life Team, University of Central Arkansas Police Department and the North Little Rock Police Department along with hospital staff participated in the active shooter drill Saturday morning.
"Obviously, no one expects for this sort of thing to happen. We don't want to ever see it happen, but, in the environment we live in, these things happen," CPD spokesman LaTresha Woodruff said. "We [and other agencies] are working with Conway Regional ... so that we can kind of get a feel for what could happen, all the moving parts, and how we would handle this sort of situation. It never hurts to practice. It's just like your fire drill — the fire department tells people all the time to practice getting out of your house if there's fire, so we want to practice this sort of scenario if this were to ever happen here."
Conway Regional Marketing Coordinator Lannette Rogers said months of planning went into planning this drill.
The training allowed for hospital staff as well as surrounding law enforcement agencies and other first responders to collectively determine how they would come together and coordinate their services and abilities to best function during an ongoing shooting incident.
CPD spokesman Chris Harris said the most important factor to take away from this training was how to properly and effectively communicate during a high-tension scenario where an active shooter is present, injuries have been reported and a large number of agencies are coming together to tackle the situation.
The scene at hand focused around an incident where a shooter had terrorized the emergency room and shot at random at those around him. In a scenario designed to train participants, authorities were alerted of a truck that was on fire outside of the emergency room entrance and that an ambulance driver had been shot. Those on scene were also warned that the suspect forced himself into the emergency room and began shooting at random. Because the hospital could not shut down its emergency room for the training, the drill was held in the Outpatient Surgery Center, which is closed on Saturdays.
The Conway Fire Department headed a controlled burn in a metal bin in front of the hospital to simulate the smoke that would be rolling from the truck that was reportedly on fire.
As officers, paramedics and other first responders were tackling the scene from the inside, a mock media station was also set up to update individuals on how the scenario was playing out, just as they would in a real shooting situation.
Conway Regional Trauma Coordinator Michael Henry said the drill was staged as part of CRMC's "ongoing efforts to improve our readiness for crisis situations."
"We believe this is particularly important in light of the increasing number of active aggressor events nationally," he said.
The drill focused on the need to protect and treat staff while also protecting and treating the hospital's visitors and patients affected during the incident.
Harris said it's important for law enforcement officers who are tackling a shooter/aggressor scenario head-on to know how to multitask, noting the key to these situations is to "stop the killing [and] stop the dying."
Harris and Rogers both agreed that aggressive scenarios play out in emergency more often than what's publicized and that this training will better help authorities and hospital staff know how to react should those situations escalate.
Overall, the training allowed law enforcement learn communication skills when working alongside multiple agencies.
"The biggest things to come out of this are learning to communicate through all the different departments and to have everyone on the same page to save as many lives as possible," Harris said, noting many law enforcement officers are now learning basic triage and trauma techniques.
With more individuals being equipped with skills covered during Saturday's training, local officials will be able to save more lives when a shooter or other attacker is present.
"It doesn't matter if it's a shooter in [the hospital] or if someone's driving a big truck through Toad Suck, we have the same [goal]: We're going after the killer," Harris said. "While we're doing that, we're starting to triage it [immediately, instead of waiting for the scene to be fully secured]."